Handyman Saitō in Another World had been calculatedly working its way up through its “everyone has a story” concept, before bringing all the stars of its silly sketches together for this ongoing battle we’ve been following for over three episodes. With that arc at last seeming to come to a close in this one, the writing thus works to bring things full circle. It posits that people’s individual stories don’t just result in them clashing in conflict when those plots collide, but can instead facilitate connections that might allow them to peacefully resolve their issues. Everyone has their own story, but as we saw all those stories as intermittent skits sketching out the idiosyncrasies of this world, they all work together to form the story we all participate in.
This idea is mostly filled out via in-universe understandings, starting with Morlock finding out about the backstory and motivations of Kisurugi and co. Relations and connections just kind of spider-web out from there, with the ninja finding out that Morlock was actually the time-manipulating wizard he’d been seeking in the first place, or that one of his demon companions was a relative of the Demon Lord who’s pals with that magical king. It’s these understandings that lead to Morlock sparing the enemies’ lives, and allow them to find a way to save their witch friend that doesn’t involve murdering a cave full of other adventurers.
I like this overall idea, since I feel it actually fits with Handyman Saitou‘s dedication to the offbeat nature of its world. It feels appropriate to undercut the inherent conflict of adventurers competing over treasure in a labyrinth by revealing that the situation can basically solve itself once these people just sit down and talk to each other. And it does so by maintaining the kind of baseline irreverence you get from one summoned Demon enemy reacting with “Wait, Uncle Dorg?” when staring down a super-powerful opponent he thought he killed last week. The jokes in Handyman Saitou continue to be few and far between for this stretch, but at least when they do get deployed, they’re still timed well enough to get a laugh.
This concept of connections intersects with Handyman Saitou‘s other big idea which has been there basically from the beginning: The desire to feel fulfilled from helping others, from being of use. It’s been the primary driving force of Saitou since he got isekai’d and felt more appreciated than he did in his home world, and it comes out as the main feeling that was driving Kisurugi and his quest with the others, even apart from his pure love for the witch. It also informs the lengths we know these reflective characters will go to in order to attain that kind of fulfillment; we see the flashback to the time Saitou lethally lept into an attack to shield Raelza, and Kisurugi’s arc ends here with him seemingly going off to give his life to reverse the aging curse of the witch he loves. Ending your own story in service of letting someone else’s continue is seen as a noble use of that life. It’s a sweet, and bittersweet, counter to the hyper-individualistic narratives seen in many other adventure-focused fantasies, to say nothing of your more typical self-insert wish-fulfillment isekai setups.
But of course Handyman Saitou is not your typical isekai. That is already apparent when it was a shitpost-esque sketch comedy, but I think they’ve finally properly come around to making that vibe clear even when it’s in “serious” mode. As Saitou refutes claims that he’s anything other than “just a handyman”, he emphasizes how he’s a central character not here to cheat his way to stat-sheet-based superpowers or pick up a harem of lovestruck fantasy denizens (even if he has gained a few admirers anyway up through this adventure). Sometimes the real overpowered stats are the friends you made along the way.
That comes through for other characters too, particularly Morlock, even if the arc initiated by his backstory more or less levels off by the halfway point of this episode. It’s indicated that his own wish came true in a less direct fashion as well, since he did regain a family, even as it wasn’t the same family he had lost and hoped to restore with his daughter’s life. Where the cliffhanger last episode with his memory issues kicking in at first seemed like one more cheap joke at his affliction’s expense, the writing loops back around on it at the beginning of this episode, making Morlock’s trust and connections with his party members feel genuine, and more appreciable than any dead-daughter sob story did. Plus I enjoy the anime’s commitment to letting the 100 seconds of stopped time play out in real time for this segment, complete with a countdown timer that follows and compliments Morlock’s little emotional arc in this odd isolated state. Even for its “serious” stretch, that’s a bit that’s pure Handyman Saitou.
It’s been an uneven road through this segment of Handyman Saitou, and I’m not even sure how content I am with the ultimate resolution of Kisurugi’s story, his demon bros forcibly un-summoned and him heading off to bittersweetly sacrifice himself. But I don’t know how much I want the show to keep following this sort of narrative as opposed to getting back to perhaps lighter storytelling, at least for a little bit. It’s proven it can utilize more direct narrative and thematic elements, but that just means I want to see it mix up its ambition even more. Can it convey those layers while reintegrating its offbeat humor? Or will it continue to play things in such a straight manner?
Handyman Saitō in Another World is currently streaming on
Chris is a freewheeling Fresno-based freelancer with a love for anime and a shelf full of too many Transformers. He can be found spending way too much time on his Twitter, and irregularly updating his blog.
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